Strength for Today and Faith for Tomorrow
By MANDY SAELER
With my destination firmly planted in mind, I navigated the back roads of my small town to the highway that would take me westward. My destination? The Colorado Rocky Mountains – specifically, the well-loved little mountain town of Estes Park.
Absorbed in the familiar drive, the highway miles passed quickly and I soon reached the canyon. A paved road runs through the lofty old canyon, twisting and turning for many miles. Without much thought I undertook the curvy road I’d maneuvered many times before.
The first several times I’d driven this canyon road, I had marveled as many do – but as the years passed by, I’ll admit that the scenic drive had been demoted to merely “pretty” in my mind. While roads are oftentimes no more than a means of travel – in reality, this road outshines the rest. Towering canyon walls line either side, sparkling as they catch beams of sunlight that enliven the age-old layers of stone edged with pure green moss. Over the rocky embankment that traces the roadside, an alluring crystal river ribbons at the base of the canyon, softly gleaming at the touch of the sunbeams. Travelers come from afar to visit the majestic Rocky Mountains, and yet, the stunning, rugged beauty of the canyon has them breathless before they even arrive at their destination!
As I drove through the canyon that day, the traffic slowed to a halt at a construction zone where I sat waiting, the minutes passing by. Crisp mountain air breezed through the open windows of my car and I freshly turned my eyes to the familiar scenery that surrounded me … the soothing colors of nature, the water dancing over the river rocks, the unlikely growth of saplings in crevices. Sitting back, I gazed through the open sunroof at the sparkling stone walls that climbed towards the sky. As my busy mind was quieted, I recognized that I’d been careening by without much appreciation for the beauty all around. Picking up my iPhone, I attempted to snap a picture of the creamy, neutral color palette that inspired me, but it was to no avail – the beauty I beheld with my eyes simply couldn’t be captured. Swooned by the natural grandeur all around me, I simply drank it in, doing my best to bottle the memory of the beauty in my heart.
Isn’t it true that we often find ourselves in need of fresh perspective in the midst of the oh-so-familiar landscape of our lives? To be stopped in our tracks (maybe in a construction zone!) in order to take in the reality? In the midst of each seemingly ordinary day, how do we cultivate bright perspective in the present moment? And as we turn towards the horizon, how do we look onward with the light of hope in our eyes?
At one time or another, I’m certain we’ve all struggled to maintain a heavenly perspective. Whether our plans are ruined, a disappointment unfolds, a hope dissolves, or something else – there are a myriad of situations and circumstances that lead our hearts to crave renewed, hope-filled perspective.
In my own life journey, some stretches of the canyon road have been bright and beautiful, while others have seemed dim and drab. Through both the bright and the bleak, there are some key spiritual principles I’ve learned and am eager to share with you in the pages that follow. These practices have been (and continue to be) a means of God’s grace in my life – to not merely survive the twists and turns while clutching my stomach, but to spiritually thrive through the winding canyon.
. . .
Cleave to the Word
See Psalm 119.
I recently heard a powerful testimony from a man who came to Christ through the persistent love of believers and the simple words of Scripture. Pursued by a Christian young man that worked with him, he was an angry, lonely, embittered man that embraced a profane lifestyle and was bent on embarrassing and making a fool of the young man who shared the Gospel with him. But the young man did not relent, and soon, his whole family was engaged in pursuing this man for Christ and an invitation to a Christmas celebration at their home was extended. When the man arrived he was met with warmth and welcome, along with a Christmas gift that was enthusiastically thrust into his arms: an audio Bible on cassette tape.
As the young Christian had observed the man’s life, he discovered that he had never learned to read. So when the opportunity arose to give him a gift, the young man and his family chose creative means to get the Word into his hands and heart. While the man was initially insulted by the gift, he eventually began piping the audio Bible through the speakers of the converted bus he lived in. Through the resolved love of that young man and his family and the power of the Living Word, the man’s heart was awakened to the Gospel and he was completely transformed by Christ. And in time, with a little help, he learned to read and study the Bible. (And he even went on to study the original languages of the Bible!)
As I listened to this man share his testimony, I noted the unique way he treasured the Word of God and loved sharing it with others. His story freshly reminded me to not underestimate the power of the Word and to cherish it as a precious gift – and to remember my own ongoing need for the truth of Christ.
God’s Word is the expression of His perspective, ways, and nature – and it is the way He has chosen to communicate His heart to us. So when it comes to understanding Him, embracing His ways, and bearing a heavenly perspective as our own, the primary way we can do this is through engaging with His Word with a whole heart.
While secondary means are valuable (sermons, books, discussing truth, etc.) tapping straight into the source, Scripture itself, is key. Therein, we receive the life-giving sap that nourishes our souls and refreshes our hearts with heavenly perspective. A bleak outlook is quickly brightened when the lamp of God’s Word is lighting the way.
Garner Wise Counsel
See Proverbs 1:5; 11:14; 15:22; 19:20; 24:6.
A number of years ago, I sat with a group of friends around a living room on a cool winter night. We had come together to sit at the feet of an elderly missionary couple who’d served the Lord on the mission field for many years. They shared stories of God’s provision, the importance of living with an eternal focus, and other bits of advice. Interestingly, the man and woman, each in their own way, articulated the absolute importance of remaining in the Word of God, maintaining spiritual fire, and continually feasting on His faithfulness. The kind and gentle wisdom they shared, partnered with their earnest expression of truth, penetrated my heart. Though they were giving general advice to the assorted group of believers that surrounded them, their perspective and insight were invaluable.
Looking to those who are faithfully walking with Christ for perspective in the midst of our familiar life course can be enlightening. Receiving help from others in this way can be humbling at times, but is also very rewarding. Just as the traveler sees their surroundings with fresh eyes, so it is when we invite others into our lives to lend their perspective.
Whether these “wise counselors” are godly parents, those in spiritual leadership, or other faithful believers – they can often see the landscape of our lives with fresh eyes and God-given insight. Specifically seek them out for spiritual perspective in the midst of challenging seasons, practical wisdom in the midst of decision making, etc. If you are unsure of who you can turn to in your own life, prayerfully lay this area before God and ask Him for wisdom.
In addition, receiving the “counsel” of faithful believers from past generations through classic Christian books, biographies, poetry and prose, hymns, etc. is an amazing way to cultivate Christ-centered perspective.
While the men and women from bygone years may not be able to speak to your specific situation, the legacy of their lives and the “offerings of faith” they have left behind can powerfully speak to your heart in tandem with the timeless truth of Scripture. (The faithful lives of Christians from past generations have been deeply impactful in my own walk of faith – and I am so grateful!)
If you are in a unique situation and lack the opportunity to receive wise counsel in-person, I especially hope you will be encouraged to embrace the wise counsel of godly men and women that is available in other ways.*
Rehearse the Truth
See Romans 12:1-2; Colossians 3:1-4; Romans 8:5-6; and Psalm 119:36-37.
Rehearsing the truth in our hearts is key to establishing and maintaining a bright and hope-filled perspective in life.
One practical way to cultivate a heart set on the truth is to surround ourselves with the Word of God and expressions of faith. A specific way I’ve learned to put this into practice is to write out meaningful quotes and Scriptures that stand out to me and then place them where I’ll see them: on my desk, inside the front cover of books I’m reading, or even designed into beautiful prints for the wall frames in my home. Seeing these quotes and Scriptures all around helps them become a refrain of truth that replays in my heart and uplifts my mind.
When my thoughts or emotions are tempted to wander into the territory of worry or anxiety or something else, having the truth at my fingertips and on the edge of my mind all day long is a helpful, ready defense. Remember, doubt is displaced when faith is embraced. And lies are dissolved when truth is resolved. I would encourage you to seek out your own creative ways of cultivating a faith-filled perspective in daily life!
Another method of rehearsing the truth is to simply speak it to our own hearts. (I certainly do a lot of “preaching” to my own heart!) Whether in your thoughts, on the pages of a journal, or speaking out loud – tell your heart what is true. Speak the truth to your heart. Despite all of the “ifs” and “buts” that your emotions may rake up – set those feelings in their place through the overcoming power of Christ. And remember, the ability to speak the truth to your heart rests in your knowledge of the truth – so be sure that your heart is steeped in God’s Word.
In one season, a truthful refrain I rehearsed in my heart countless times was this: In Christ, the best is yet to be! This phrase surfaced in the midst of a time when a thick fog of emotion and uncertainty seemed to hover around me. As I passed through that season and spoke this refrain of truth to my heart, the first words “In Christ…” reminded me to set my mind first on Christ, remembering that my life is hidden in Him. And with the following words “…the best is yet to be!” I was encouraged to think on the hope and beauty of life with Him – both on the horizon of my life and also in the heavenly home that awaits! Embracing the truth day by day served to nudge my heart and mind heavenward, rooting my hope and expectation in God alone.
In Christ, we have an unchanging hope and a future bright as the morning sun … for all of the promises of God are yes and amen, sealed by the One who is faithful, has promised, and cannot lie! (See 2 Corinthians 1:20 and Hebrews 10:23.) For our present day and those which are to come – by His grace, may we embrace this as our treasured reality: “The future is as bright as the promises of God!”
. . .
Along that winding canyon road, if you can manage to break your eyes away from the stunning scenery, you’ll notice various quirky cabins and mountain lodges, stop-along tourist shops, road signs warning of upcoming curves, and the ominous signage that reads, “In case of flooding climb to safety.”
On a peaceful day, it can be hard to imagine the turmoil of the elements unleashing a furious flood, but those signs are posted for a reason. When the waters rise, scrambling up the rocky terrain is necessary for more than a fresh view of the scenery – it is for survival. High upon the rocks, perspective is gained and refuge is found. And beyond the reach of the tumultuous waters, those that flee to safety are not consumed.
The signs in the canyon remind me of what David the psalmist exclaimed in the midst of his own “storm” in Psalm 61: “Hear my cry, O God … when my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (vs.1-2). The psalmist knew where to go for perspective and safety when the waters of trial and his enemies overwhelmed him: he cried out to God and fled to God’s presence for refuge. “For You have been a shelter for me, a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings” (vs. 3-4).
When we feel troubled or in need of refreshment, may we train our hearts to run to the presence of our God. As we flee to “the rock that is higher than I” and find refuge in His presence, we will find that our perspective is cleared by light of His truth. (See Psalm 18:1-3, 31-33; Isaiah 43:2; Isaiah 40:31; and Psalm 27:13.)
Although the shades of our days will vary, we have been entrusted with all that we need to cultivate a truth-infused perspective. With each situation, conversation, disappointment, challenge, joy, and blessing – may we faithfully choose to calibrate our thoughts and heart with the ever-stabilizing truth of God’s Word. And through it all, may we joyfully embrace His strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow!